Brandon Laird | 3B
Laird was raised in Westminster, a baseball hotbed in Orange County, CA. He’s the younger brother of Texas Rangers’ catcher Gerald, and like his brother is a product of the famed La Quinta High School baseball program. The school’s alumni includes Bobby Crosby, Ian Stewart, and the Yanks’ own Ian Patrick Kennedy. He helped the USA Youth Tradition Team to the World Championship in the summer of 2004 (which was played in Anaheim Stadium), where he played alongside 2005 first overall pick Justin Upton.
Laird racked up the hardware as a prepster, winning Orange County Player of the Year honors as a senior. He was also named First Team All-League, First Team All-CIF (California Interscholastic Federation), Second Team All-American, and the League MVP during his high school career. Laird had scholarship offers from Arizona State and Louisiana State in hand, and was drafted by the Indians in the 27th round of the 2005 draft. He choose not to sign, and instead of heading to ASU or LSU, he followed his brother’s lead to Cypress College just outside of Anaheim. By going to a 2-yr college instead of a 4-yr institution, Laird was able to re-enter the draft pool in 2006 as opposed to having to wait until 2008.
Laird played all over the infield in starting all 54 games for the Chargers as a freshman, and led the team with 74 hits. He started his college career off with a 10 game hit streak, and finished the year with a .341-.378-.484 line, with 9 doubles, 2 triples, and 6 homers. He finished second on the team with 53 RBI. Despite his outstanding campaign, Laird went undrafted in 2006 and returned to Cypress for a second season.
Laird had one of the best seasons in Cypress history as a sophomore, hitting .392-.446-.672 with 24 doubles, 11 homers, 44 RBI and a 13-21 K/BB ratio. He led the team in every significant offensive category, and finished his Charger career in 3rd place on the school’s all-time hit list with 142, and 8th on the all-time RBI list with 91 (current Yankee farmhand Kevin Smith holds the career RBI record with 116). With 2-yrs of junior college complete, Laird’s options were to turn pro or transfer to a 4-yr program.
The Yanks gambled that Laird wanted to go pro, and selected him in the 27th round of the draft (#844 overall). Despite being a Scott Boras client, he signed within days of the draft. He did receive a well-above slot bonus of $120,000 however, the same amount the Yanks gave Damon Sublett who was drafted 20 rounds earlier. Baseball America rated Laird as the Yank’s best late round pick in their Draft Report Card, and Pinstripes Plus went so far as to call him “the steal of the draft.” Sorry, subscription required for both pieces.
Laird was sent to the Rookie level GCL Yanks after signing, and continued to do nothing but mash. He hit .339-.367-.577 with 14 doubles, 1 triple and 8 homers. He finished fifth in the league in batting average and second in slugging percentage. He also took part in Fall Instructional League, and wowed onlookers during the league homerun derby.
Laird’s best tool is the one that makes guys the most money. He has game changing power to all fields, and makes consistent hard contact against both righties and lefties. He’s adept at identifying breaking balls, and doesn’t have any glaring holes in his swing. His plate discipline is good but not outstanding; he’ll take his walks when they come. Laird can flat out rake and he knows it.
His only other plus tool is his arm, which is strong but not particularly accurate. He’s also got good bloodlines obviously, and there aren’t any makeup or work ethic questions.
Nothing else in Laird’s game is beyond average. His defense has regressed since high school, and it shouldn’t be long before he plays his way off the hot corner. His hands are okay at best, and his lower half in general is uncoordinated. He’s not particularly athletic, and is nothing more than a station to station runner. To his credit, he has worked hard on his defense since turning pro.
Laird is a candidate to start the season in Extended Spring Training to continue working on his defense, but his bat is full-season ready. If he doesn’t go the Extended Spring followed by Short Season Staten Island route, he’ll head to Low-A Charleston and may have to DH in deference to Bradley Suttle. He just turned 20, so he’s not much older than a typical high school draft pick.
Laird is an intriguing guy, but he’d be even more intriguing – and more dangerous – if he batted lefty. He’s going to put up some goofy minor league numbers along the way, and could have a career path similar to Shelley Duncan, although Shelley is a better athlete and defender than Laird ever will be. Laird’s bat is going to determine how far he goes, and luck for him he’s got quite the hit tool. When it comes to 27th round draft picks, Laird is as good as it gets.